Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thoughts on Chanters

Let me first start by saying that this is an observation and based on my experience and is no way a dig at anyone or any brands or bands.

I play a wooden chanter in solos. Wouldn't dream of playing plastic. It has a warm tone, good harmonics and a quality of sound that (in my opinion) plastic can't beat. I play more than one chanter by the way. I have compared plastic chanters and haven't changed. The chanters I play are very stable and I do not believe there is any added stability from plastic.

When we first started the City of Adelaide Pipe Band, we purchased plastic chanters. More for cost reasons than anything else. We then changed after a few years due to reed availability more than a chanter issue and really got a very similar sound despite reed and chanter changes. We later purchased wood chanters and the quality of sound and depth of harmonics changed noticeably. The overall character of the sound did not change dramatically. But this was the biggest sound difference we have ever had.

The question is, how much better would some of the worlds best bands be if they changed from plastic to wood chanters? I do not quite understand why some don't. I can't see that it is a cost issue. Maybe it is what they are used to? Is the chanter sound that SLOT or SFU get (as an example) that much better in tonal quality, or does an organ like drone sound (using FMM as an example) offset or enhance the tonal quality of the chanters.

On a good day there is little seperating these bands in terms of sound quality. in fact on any given day any one of the top 6, or even an outsider may have the "sound of the day".

Maybe I am just a wooden chanter snob and hear what I want to hear or am I not alone in my thoughts?

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  1. I agree about the wooden chanters but one thing i would like to ask is, what bag do you use and does that benefit the wooden chanter ?

  2. I have noticed that there are a few bags that seem to make a difference. Of course sheepskin gives a lot of vibrance. I have also noted a minor difference with the Bannatynes bag, between tying it in or using the clamp. Tying in seems to give more vibrance as well.

  3. By the way its SLOT not SLOR, i use a plastic chanter, unsure of the make, but in the other band i used to play in we used wornock pollypenker Mk3 chanters, they produced a hair raising sound and quality with the McCallum pipes. but id like to use the wornock wooden chanters, like SLOT with McCallum pipes.

  4. Speaking as an ex-army piper, we changed to Warnock plastic chanters from wooden Sinclairs primarily because of the number of breakages. We also found the plastic chanters to be more consistent and consequently easier to set up as a band.
    This was too many years ago now and no doubt methods of producing matched wooden chanters have advanced since. Hopefully somebody has also found a way of making drones to equal my Peter Henderson's because there was certainly a lot of blackwood wasted in making really poor quality pipes at that time.

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